Within the life of the church, we all live amongst a wide diversity of people groups. This includes the Indigenous peoples of Canada and the Native American people of the United States, groups with high percentages of individuals who adhere to the Christian faith. In Canada alone, roughly 60 percent of those who claim to have an Indigenous ethnic origin also claim to adhere to any category of Christianity across the different denominations. And yet the Church still struggles to embrace their Indigenous brothers and sisters as spiritual family.
Indigenous peoples all across the world have worldviews that are spiritual in nature. Because of this, there are many types of opportunities to share the Gospel in ways Indigenous people might be open to. Their worldviews are built on oral traditions, relationships, and the extended family unit. Historically, the Church has had a difficult time reaching out to Indigenous people because of how the government and the Church, historically, have worked together against the interest of Native peoples.
As an Indigenous person who has held the tiles of pastor, preacher, chaplain, Bible teacher, author, and workshop facilitator, I have noticed that people who are non-Indigenous would like to know more about Indigenous peoples. However, many have never felt like they have had a safe place discuss the issues tied to understanding Indigenous peoples more. There are not enough safe spaces to ask honest questions. This is why the Understanding Indigenous People Workshops are being held. In these online workshops, we will discuss the last 500 years of North American history. We will look at how the government and the Church led an agenda of assimilation that has become known as colonialism, a well-known approach that has been used all over the globe with other Indigenous people groups.
During these workshops, we will look at the impact of colonialism more clearly and see the impact of spending more time listening than talking as we engage with Indigenous peoples. We will see the value of spending more time listening and reflecting rather than thinking we have it all figured out. We will learn the ways the academic community uses the terms colonialism and ethnocentrism when describing the last 500 years in North America. And we will learn the impact of colonialism and ethnocentrism on Native peoples, people God has called the Church to reach with the Great Commission. We will also learn that within the Indigenous Christian community across North America there is a division on using certain methods of outreach to Indigenous people. This division is referred to as contextualization. All these topics will be presented and discussed in a safe learning environment. Our goal is to grow in our understanding of our Indigenous neighbor, that we might love them the way Christ has called us to in the Great Commandment. Your questions are not merely welcome, they are coveted.
Parry Stelter is originally from Alexander First Nation, which is part of Treaty Six Territory in the province of Alberta, Canada. He is Bible teacher, author, speaker, workshop facilitator, chaplain, and ambassador of Jesus Christ, as well as ambassador of his fellow Indigenous people.